Agents who keep their options open

Q. I have had an offer accepted on a property but the estate agent is insisting on keeping the property advertised on their website. What should I do?

A: If you’ve had an offer accepted, you or the seller can pull out at any time; it’s not until you’ve exchanged contracts that the purchase is legally binding. It often takes approximately 4 – 6 weeks from having an offer accepted to exchanging contracts, so there’s quite a lot of time before the purchase is legally secured. Therefore, a lot of estate agents keep properties on their website throughout the purchase process and don’t mark them as ‘under offer’ or ‘sold’ until exchange of contracts has happened.

From the estate agent’s perspective, this means that potential buyers for the property can continue to enquire about it and the estate agent can take down their details to have buyers lined up if your purchase falls apart. Additionally, the more properties that the estate agent has on their website, the more buyers are prompted to register with them, so it’s really a marketing tool for the estate agent.

From your perspective, having the property still being advertised online can add to the angst of the purchase and might have you worrying about whether another buyer will see the details online and try to gazump you. In your offer letter, you could request that the property is marked as ‘under offer’ on the agent’s website, or request that they remove it altogether. Some estate agents will agree to this whereas others have a fairly strict policy to keep the property online. In some cases I’ve seen properties online which we bought for a client nearly a year previously!

If the seller has agreed to stop all viewings then a reputable estate agent should uphold this and, if buyers do enquire about the property, they should be told that the property is under offer. For our own clients, we would always call the estate agent several times during the purchase and pose as a buyer to check that they are telling buyers that the property is firmly under offer, so I suggest you do the same. Then you can channel your efforts to getting exchanged as quickly as you can.

If you have a question you’d like Jo or Eccord to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.